7 ways that writing and running are similar

Runner icon

For three decades, I ran to compete, to relax, and to exercise. I pounded the pavement, the sidewalks, the trails without a thought about consequences until my damaged feet and aching knees told me to stop. I did that 30 years to the day after I first slipped on a pair of running shoes.

At first, I felt relief. The time I spent not running went into options: rest, recovery, writing. I finished the book that I always promised myself I would write. Then I started on a second book. Exercise tumbled off my list of priorities.

Not long after it did, I acquired my first full-blown case of writer’s block. The words and ideas stopped coming. Sitting in front of a keyboard invited agony — I stared for hours at a blank screen hoping the look on my face was not just as blank.

It was during one of these stare-downs that I realized the problem. As with running, writing requires a “training” method. Just lacing up the shoes and hitting the road without preparation invites injury; it makes sense then that sitting down to write without preparation can cause aggravation, too.

So, before you start to write, have:

A plan — Blogs, books, tweets, and treatises require distinct writing styles. So, settle on a style to suit the need. Be true to your voice, but do the research; determine word counts and writing time. Knowing parameters helps keep a project, and your temper, under control.

Good equipment — In running, comfort is king. Good shoes and loose togs satisfy this royal priority. For writers, good equipment, and a dependably cozy, ergonomically suitable place to write do the same. The key is to minimize the distractions that interfere with creativity.

Goals or routines — Set a goal and stick to it. As a writer, I aim for a minimum of 1,000 good words at a sitting, regardless of topic. Goals and routines help us measure distance and progress. Of course, nobody starts running 10 miles their first day; one works up to that. The same with writing: start small, then expand the goal as time and tolerance permit.

Accountability — Did you miss your goal for the day? Make a reminder. Did you exceed your goal? Reward yourself. The final arbiter stares at you in the mirror. Be able to stare back without regret.

Variety — For a while in my running routine, I chose the same route, but that only hindered improvement. Writing the same way every day can hinder as well. If prose is your passion, dabble in poetry. If long-form writing dominates your routine, break out with short stories once in a while. To help, keep a writing journal — a space to experiment with other styles.

Partnerships — Running, like writing, is a solitary pursuit. Having a partner, on the other hand, can spur you to work harder, especially if the other person is somewhat better than you. Partners discuss ideas and nudge each other through daunting projects. Partners offer perspectives that solitude does not permit.

Healthy habits — Runners and writers need fuel. Lacking that, runners hit a wall and writers hit a blank. But not just any fuel — junk food begets junk writing. The mind is more efficient with a healthy diet. Additionally, sedentary lifestyles diminish brain function. Exercise regularly; walk, run, bike, stretch, whatever. Writers will find the words come easier when they’re healthier.

Editor’s note: This piece is an updated version of a post I wrote for the Society of Professional Journalists.

A partir del Cinco de Mayo

On the fifth comes my first.

Starting today, the day famously known as Cinco de Mayo, all the logic and lunacy symbolic of my first blog resumes here ─ where it should have been all along.

Posterous logoFour years ago, I staked my claim to this domain and anchored it to this publishing platform, unsure what to do with either one. The prevailing logic demanded my domain be an extension of my personality and house bits and pieces of it.

Instead, I resisted, because prevailing logic affords no permanence, only convenience. In time, that kind of logic changes, and logic, by definition, defies convention.

Then, three years ago, I began blogging. Well past the portmanteau’s freshness date, I know, but began in earnest no less. The first few posts were sporadic; later entries were better and bolder. I was on track toward regular blogging when three things occurred:

1) I became regional director for the Society of Professional Journalists, a job possessing demands that, to my surprise, wilted my routine.

2) My mother suffered a heart attack, then a stroke. Since then, she has slipped out of cogence and into hospice care. My trips to see her changed from random to routine.

3) My chosen blogging platform, Posterous, shut down.

The third factor proved more distracting than I imagined. Posterous had character and wide appeal. It was free to use and mindful of mobile users, becoming one of the first blogging platforms to make mobile posting seamless. High-profile bloggers made it their chosen platform, too. I felt, as one always does early in a relationship, that Posterous had staying power.

Then Twitter bought it. Then Twitter plundered it for talent. Then Twitter, on April 30, shut it down.

When the platform folded, my nascent network of regular readers fractured. True though, they followed me over from social networking, which takes more time out of my day than acceptable. Still, if my thinking ever deepened, those followers now lacked a venue to witness the plunge.

So, today, I dust off this domain to make it into what it should have been from the start. That it happens on May 5, or Cinco de Mayo, is coincidence, if maybe a happy one.

Of course, I could retrench at another free blogging site (and I have, to a degree). But I’m paying for this one, it sat dormant way too long, and even if this publishing platform changes, the ideas expressed here ought to remain here.

I hope.